Tuesday, 6 February 2007

The Passing of the Old

An interesting letter arrived yesterday from the Law Commission, proposing the repeal of certain ancient statutes relating to London - in other words, tidying away laws which are now obsolete. Among the provisions is the repeal of the 1826 Act Geo 4 c.xiii (Westminster Bridewell), which authorised the rebuilding of a prison known as the Westminster Bridewell (shown above) or House of Correction. The prison had originally been built further west, in what were Tothill Fields, in 1618. By the 1800s, this prison was too small and insecure to ensure the safety of inmates. The Act authorised the purchasing of a new site and the construction of a new prison to replace the old. The new prison, opened in 1834, was built on an eight acre site of open ground. Initially it was intended for men and women of either sex whose sentences were less severe than transportation, but from 1850 it was restricted further to convicts of either sex below the age of 17. The total number held at any time was about 900.

The prison was demolished in 1884 to make way for the building of Westminster Cathedral. Its main door still stands, at the far end of Victoria Street, where it has been moved to the rear of the Middlesex Guildhall in Parliament Square - the only tangible relic of the sad prehistory of the Cathedral. You can read more about the Westminster Bridewell on the Cathedral website here.


Anonymous said...

"it was intended for men and women of either sex ". Liberal old thing, Monsignor.

Peter Simpson said...

I suppose that Westminster Cathedral is still a House of Correction! We enter the doors as miserable sinners, but can leave gloriously forgiven and nourished to travel the path God wants us to walk in.

As you do not refer to yourself as the Dean of Westminster Cathedral, perhaps you could adopt the title of Governor of Westminster Cathedral!